A Note from Fr. Gary -
During this summer I have had the pleasure of hearing a number of very good homilies. This experience has prompted me to reflect on how important it is for me, as the listener, to prepare myself to receive the word of God that comes through the preacher.
If we are not intentional about our role as receivers of the word of God, listening to a homily can easily become a passive experience in which I simply show up and expect the preacher to do all the work. Underlying this attitude is the idea that it is the preacher’s job to prepare his homily well, and then deliver it well so I can be nourished.
We expect the deacon, priest or bishop who preaches the homily to be trained in theology and biblical studies. We expect them to be trained in public speaking and have the ability to use a microphone effectively. We expect them to have taken the time to reflect on the scriptures that are proclaimed so that they can help us to understand what the Lord is calling us to right now in the living word of God.
Those are all reasonable expectations. But evaluating the effectiveness of a homily doesn’t end there. You see a homily is always a dialogue between the preacher, God, and the hearers of the homily. For this dialogue to be effective, the hearers of the homily also have to be prepared, in their own way, to enter into the dialogue.
To be prepared to hear a homily, I have to come to the liturgy having read and reflected on the scriptures I am going to hear proclaimed. This is the most important step in the preparation process. Taking time with God’s word will not only familiarize me with the scriptures that will be proclaimed, but will also allow myself to ask how these scriptures apply to me. Such reflection will often surface questions about the passage or passages I am reading. If I bring those reflections and those questions to my listening to the homily, then I will be an active participant in the dialogue.
During my time at St. Joseph I have enjoyed the nourishment I have received from Deacon Scott Aikin’s preaching. Deacon Scott brings a perspective that is different from mine because of his primary vocation as a husband and a father. Deacon Bill Townsend from Our Lady Star of the Sea brings an added dimension to his preaching. Deacon Bill is not only a husband and a father, but also a grandfather and a Deacon who has had primary responsibility for community life at Star of the Sea for a very long time.
This summer Fr. Michael Dion and Deacon Justin Ryan have joined the preaching ministry in our communities. Fr. Michael and Deacon Ryan bring their own unique experiences, insights and styles to their homilies.
All five of us also have different styles, different ways that we approach the scripture, and unpack the word. There is no “one way” to preach a homily, and I appreciate the individual ways that the word of God is broken open by our different homilists.
We are blessed to be able to have this rich dialogue happening in our three communities among such a diverse group of preachers and communities. May all of us, preachers and members of the assembly alike, take this dialogue seriously and come to Sunday Mass ready to be nourished by the life-giving word of God.
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni